The Penguins dropped their big opener to the Detroit Red Wings on Monday by a 2-1 final. We know this not because we watched, but because the game, the players and the arena necessarily exist in space and time, and that's what ESPN said the score was.
Beau Bennett scored the Pens' lone marker on the evening while Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Tatar netted goals for Detroit.
The preseason is going to be an early look into new head coach Mike Johnston's systems, but until the real roster is nearing completion, that look will be foggy at best.
In spite of ourselves, here are a few takeaways from a game you couldn't give away:
- Beau Bennett still may not be a top-six forward. The Penguins only iced a handful of regular forwards on the night. Patric Hornqvist skated with Nick Spaling through most of the night, while Brandon Sutter and Bennett were regularly paired. Bennett and Sutter seemed to have something together, and combined on the Pens' only goal. The top-six is as much a mystery as anything, but if the Penguins are serious about improving all their lines, giving Sutter an honest-to-god skating, scoring hockey player for a winger seems like a natural fit.
- The penalty kill is going to look better when better players are back killing penalties. The Pens gave up two power play goals on the evening, and neither was particularly well defended.
- Patrick Hornqvist is going to be a disruptive presence. Big-time get for whichever franchise center gets the benefit of his services this season.
- No rink-length stretch passes to speak of, and a number of drop passes and other close-range passes on zone entries. Offensive zone cycles lively and noticeable. Johnston's systems blatantly different than Dan Bylsma's even at an early stage and with barely half an NHL roster to carry them out.
- If Simon Despres is the guy to replace Paul Martin, who has been rumored to be a trade candidate this season, he seems more set to be the 2011 version of Martin, who the Penguins couldn't give away. Not a good start to the preseason for Despres, who took a minor penalty on the night and looked out of sorts for stretches throughout the evening. Despres is competing for one of the final three spots on the blue line. Having some sort of regular partner would benefit his development, which was repeatedly stunted under the last management and coaching regime. Not a great start to things on Monday, however.
- No big injuries to speak of. In a way, we're all winners.
Next exhibition game is Tuesday in Columbus.